By Gillian Cook
Published November 5, 2011
UMKHUNGO (The Gift), a gripping 29-minute film by Matthew Jankes of South Africa has beaten six other films to theÂ first prize in the Africa in Motion (AiM) Edinburg African Film Festival’s annual short film competition. This beautifully photographed metaphysical drama in isiZulu tells the story of a disillusioned street thug in Johannesburg, the commercial capital of South Africa, who rescues an orphaned child with uncontrollable supernatural powers. It was produced as part of the Focus Features Africa First programme, which has been mentoring up-and-coming African filmmakers to produce quality short films. The cash prize is sponsored by The Africa Channel.
Seven stunning films from across the continent competed in the fourth Africa in Motion short film competition. They included LEZARE (For Today) by Zelalem Woldemariam (Ethiopia, 2010); THE TAILORED SUIT by Kitso Lelliott(South Africa, 2011); DINA by Mickey Fonseca (Mozambique, 2010); GARAGOUZ by Abdenour Zahzah (Algeria, 2011); KHOUYA (My Brother) by Kuossim Yanis (Algeria, 2010); andÂ TINYE SO by Daouda Coulibaly (Mali, 2011).
The competition receives dozens of entries from all over Africa each year, from which a shortlist is made. The shortlisted films in 2011 were screened at the Africa in Motion Film Festival on November 4,2011 with the winning film announced immediately after the screenings. The films deal with themes ranging from myths and folktales, families and relationships, to mysterious powers and the magic of storytelling. In these short films we see how African filmmakers continue to address serious and relevant social issues (such as religious fundamentalism, environmental protection and domestic abuse) and how the scope of the genre is expanding through more films experimenting with style and narrative.
The Africa in Motion short film competition is geared towards young and emerging African filmmakers who have not yet produced feature-length films. The winning film is selected by a high-profile jury, consisting of international film practitioners. Filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa, member of the jury, described UMKHUNGO as “a deeply serious film with powerful performances. Well cast. An original and utterly unique take on black disaffection in South Africa. A sublime little movie that packs a major, major punch.”
Commenting on the short-list, Noe Mendelle, Director of Scottish Documentary Institute and one of the short film competition judges said, “The short-list was extremely strong making it quite a challenge to select a winner. The technical standard of production is getting higher and higher. It was also lovely to see countries such as Algeria and Ethiopia represented in the competition.”